NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Hurricane Isaac spun into the southern Louisiana coast late Tuesday, sending floodwaters surging and unleashing fierce winds as residents hunkered down behind boarded-up windows. New Orleans calmly waited out another storm on the eve of Hurricane Katrina’s seventh anniversary, hoping the city’s strengthened levees will hold.
Isaac, a massive storm spanning nearly 200 miles from its center, made landfall at about 6:45 p.m. near the mouth of the Mississippi River. But it was zeroing in on New Orleans, about 75 miles to the northwest, turning streets famous for all-hours celebrations into ghost boulevards.
The storm drew intense scrutiny because of its timing — just before the anniversary of the hurricane that devastated that city, while the first major speeches of the Republican National Convention went on in Tampa, Fla., already delayed and tempered by the storm.
While many residents stayed put, evacuations were ordered in low-lying areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, where officials closed 12 shorefront casinos. By late Tuesday, more than 200,000 homes and businesses had lost power.
The Red Cross has sent several volunteers from the New York area to help in the relief efforts in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi as Isaac bears down on the Gulf Coast.
Nearly three dozen volunteers from New York City, Long Island, and the Lower Hudson Valley have been deployed to work on shelter management, mental health support, health services support and logistics.
John Miller, who heads the Long Island region, dispatched a national emergency response vehicle on Tuesday.
“They’re bringing all kinds of water, supplies, food and they’re going to be meeting up with our national resources down in the Gulf region,” Miller said.
The first wave of Red Cross volunteers includes 18 people from the five boroughs, six from Westchester and nine from Long Island.
1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reports
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama warned residents in path of the storm that, “Now is not the time to tempt fate.”
The Red Cross has been mobilizing disaster workers, emergency vehicles, mobile kitchens and relief supplies to the storm zone.
“The Red Cross is currently helping people in Florida who are being affected by the storm, and we urge those throughout the state and the Gulf Coast region who are in Isaac’s projected path to take preparedness steps now,” said Charley Shimanski, Red Cross senior vice president of disaster services.
WCBS 880′s Sophia Hall reports
This time, federal officials say the updated levees around the city are equipped to handle storms stronger than Isaac. The Army Corps of Engineers was given about $14 billion to improve flood defenses, and most of the work has been completed.
Although Isaac’s approach on the eve of the Katrina anniversary invited comparisons, the storm is nowhere near as powerful as Katrina was when it struck. Katrina at one point reached Category 5 status with winds of more than 157 mph, and made landfall as a Category 3 storm.
Still, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center warned that Isaac, especially if it strikes at high tide, could cause storm surges of up to 12 feet along the coasts of southeast Louisiana and Mississippi and up to 6 feet as far away as the Florida Panhandle.
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